Cook painting acquired by Captain Cook Memorial Museum in Whitby

By Culture24 Staff | 28 May 2009
a paiting showing two small sailing boats in a bay

(Above) William Hodges, Matavai Bay. © Captain Cook Memorial Museum

A painting with strong links to the family of legendary explorer Captain Cook has gone on permanent display at the Captain Cook Memorial Museum in Whitby.

The pen, ink and watercolour work was painted by 18th century artist and Cook crew member William Hodges and is entitled Matavai Bay, referring to the bay on the Pacific island of Tahiti which it depicts.

Dated 1773-1774, it shows a scene from the latter part of Captain Cook's second voyage of exploration (1772-75), which ranged from the icy seas of Antarctica to the fertile islands of the central Pacific.

"We are delighted to be able to acquire this painting, which shows such an important place in Cook's voyages," said Sophie Forgan, Chairman of the Captain Cook Memorial Museum's Trustees.

"It joins three other works by Hodges, which give a real sense of the strange and distant people and places that Cook saw. We are particularly grateful to The Art Fund and all our supporters for their help in enabling the Museum to continue adding to the collection at a difficult financial time."

Hodges was the first professional European artist to visit Tahiti and the official artist of Captain Cook's voyages of discovery. Cook visited Matavai bay on all three of his voyages because of its strategic location as a point for observing the Transit of Venus.

The painting had originally belonged to descendents of the executors of Elizabeth Cook, the explorer's widow, and has never been exhibited before. It has now gone on permanent display at the Captain Cook museum.

Previously unknown, Matavai Bay came up for auction in late 2007. Whilst it did not sell at the time, the Captain Cook Memorial Museum in Whitby since raised money to acquire it with the help of The Art Fund who provided a grant of £25,000. Additional funding came from the Normanby Charitable Trust, Garfield Weston Foundation, the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund, Pilgrim Trust, Cook Museum Trust, Sir George Martin Trust and individual donors.

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